July 3, 2014 Subject:
Your review is very interesting and thought provoking. I don't usually delve deeply into mathematics, but I'll give this book a try because of your comments. I also want to say thanks for sharing that great story about your mother! I read it to my kids and they said "Mom! That's just like you! Except without the math!" (My specialty is history.) All mothers are different--thank goodness!
This slim volume (in a more recent, substantially identical Dover edition) is one of the oldest and strongest connections I have to the world of mathematics. My mother, Judith Q. Longyear, was a mathematician (combinatorics, graph theory) and I spent much of my childhood trying to figure out just what that meant. She didn't shop, clean house, dress up, or even cook much; she spent most of every day curled up in an old armchair with a mug of coffee, a pack of cigarettes, a pile of sharp pencils, and a yellow legal pad, upon which she doodled the hours away in a miniscule hand, occasionally cursing quietly or whooping loudly. She didn't talk much -- not to anyone that I could see -- and when I demanded to know what she was doing, her explanations were incomprehensible. What is math?
Dudeney's answer to this question is lucid and elegant. Not himself a mathematician, his interest in mathematical recreations led him to such discoveries as the famous Haberdasher's Puzzle, included in Canterbury. He blends math and humor with such an even hand that it is hard to see how one can exist without the other. Fanciful illustrations, in a style now quite lost to art, complete this journey in the best possible way.
This book's only real shortcoming is that the puzzle descriptions and especially the solutions are rather terse. This is also a virtue but may put off some readers. The puzzles range from the easy to the very difficult, with little warning of the challenge. Like math itself, Canterbury Puzzles demands attention be invested; it is not passive entertainment.
IA's scan is clean, sharp, and complete; of UC-B's copy in very good condition, with the exception of the cover.